For most people, experiencing some kind of anxiety in social situations is normal. The desire to be loved and accepted by others is a shared human need. You might worry about what to wear or what to say when you are amongst people outside of your family or close friends. Most people experience a lot of anxiety about public speaking, for example. But for some people, anxiety about social experiences is so much more than that. It can be physical discomfort, pain, or even anxiety so crippling as to prevent you from leaving the house. For some, living with social anxiety can actually be debilitating.
Social Anxiety Disorder
There is an official diagnosis called social anxiety disorder, which used to be known as social phobia. This is more than just typical social fears or anxieties. The situations that often cause the symptoms include social situations, especially with new people, or performance situations, including school or testing environments.
The anxiety or fears often center around being embarrassed, humiliated, or otherwise unaccepted by other people that are not usually founded in truth. Whereas many people will have dreams or concerns about these types of scenarios, social anxiety disorder causes intense emotional and physical reactions to these potential situations. This, in turn, can impact your quality of life as well as your ability to function.
If you have social anxiety disorder, more than likely you feel intense and continued fears of being watched, judged, or becoming a failure in other people’s eyes. You may even be terrified to meet new people or talk on the phone, or to even eat, drink, or use the restroom in public. Your mind may dwell on these thoughts before, during, or after being in a social setting, and they can even prevent you from participating at all.
Sometimes, these thoughts come from misreading other people’s emotional or social cues, like believing someone is staring at you when they are not, or misinterpreting facial expressions or other responses. Some people may also develop social anxiety from having less experience socially, such as being really shy. Whatever the reasons are for your anxiety, they directly impact the parts of your brain that process fear and anxiety, so it all feels very real and frightening when you are experiencing these thoughts and fears.
Another indication that your anxiety might be more than just typical social concerns is that social anxiety disorder also carries with it some very real and physical symptoms. More than just blushing or feeling a little nervous, those with social anxiety disorder often feel an intense and rapid heart rate, can become very sweaty, shake or tremble, feel very nauseated, or are unable to think at all in the moment. They may also speak very softly, make little to no eye contact, or appear very stiff when talking to people.
The physical symptoms are not only in the moment, however. Nausea and even vomiting can occur in anticipation of or even after an anxiety-causing situation. You may not be able to sleep or concentrate because you are so worried about something. You may be excessively self-conscious before, during, or after social settings. You might avoid talking to people or attending social, school, or performance situations, even if you desperately want to be there. You may even experience pain in your arms, legs, stomach, or other areas of your body without even realizing that you are anxious about something. The worst of it is that the emotional and physical symptoms can be debilitating and may prevent you from participating in life.
If you suspect that you may have social anxiety disorder, it is important to consult your doctor and discuss your symptoms, ruling out any other physical or emotional health problems which may be affecting you. Your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist, a psychologist, therapist, or outpatient treatment program, or any combination of those specialists, depending on the severity of your symptoms.
There are some medications which have been found to help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and allow you to function better. Additionally, as anxiety originates in the brain, therapy is one of the most helpful tools in combating social anxiety disorder, including group therapy. In whatever therapeutic setting you choose, therapy can be very helpful in teaching you new ways to think, and training your brain to react differently to the situations that have been causing your symptoms. Social anxiety disorder is very real, but the power of your mind is very real, too, and you can take back the control over your mind to be able to live and function in a way that improves your health and well-being.
As you look for ways to help reduce the very real symptoms from social anxiety disorder, you will find that you have more control over your life in general. You can be more productive, have more relationships, stronger relationships, and do well at school, in any kind of performances, and more. You can feel so much better physically, get better sleep, and have more peace of mind. Now it is up to you. You can set your future in motion right now by making the arrangements to see your doctor and look at therapists, specialists, and programs to help you. You can choose to simply live with social anxiety disorder, or you can choose to find some healing and thrive.
Embark is the most trusted name in teen and young adult mental health treatment. We’re driven to find the help your family needs. If you’re looking for support, contact us today!